by Jim Riggs
November 10, 1978
Falconer’s Few Who Came Through
However, they didn’t win any games.
Before you begin sizing me up for a straightjacket, let me explain the last sentence. It is correct. The Falconer jayvees didn’t win any games because they didn’t play any. They participated only in scrimmages. However, if their scrimmages had counted as games, Falconer would have tied for the Division 7 junior varsity title with a 4-1-1 record.
It is a state rule that a team must have at least 20 players suited up to participate in interscholastic football. Since Falconer was three short of the limit, it could not participate in the league. However, FCS Athletic Director Bill Race received permission for the Falcons to play their contests as scrimmages.
That means there were no kickoffs. Instead, the team receiving the ball begins from scrimmage on its 35-yard line. Also, the coaches are allowed on the field during time outs. But other than those exceptions, the scrimmages were played under game conditions.
Why does Falconer have a problem filling a junior varsity roster? “It is hard for a school our size to fill out a team,” explained Bill Davenport, the coach of these “co-champions.” He says he has had trouble reaching the 20 player limit every season, but other schools in Division 7 have the same problem since they also have teams in the Chadakoin Valley Junior High Conference. So that leaves the junior varsity with only sophomores.
Davenport has cured the number problem in the past by calling up an exceptional freshman or more often, a junior from the varsity might be dropped back to the jayvees to see more playing time. But this year there were no juniors the varsity could afford to drop back, so it was decided to go with only 17 jayvees and participate in scrimmages.
Falconer wasn’t the only shorthanded Division 7 jayvee team this season. Salamanca had only 15 players turn out and also played scrimmages, but the Warriors weren’t as successful as Falconer. While most of the other schools barely made the 20-player limit, Olean was the largest contingent Davenport saw.
When asked if his squad was discouraged about having to hold scrimmages instead of games, Davenport replied, “It bothered them early.” It also bothered Davenport since they trailed at halftime of the first scrimmage by more than 5 touchdowns and went on to lose. That is when he put down his foot and said he expected better play than that. The players responded with two wins in a row followed by a loss, two more victories and then a tie with the eventual league champ.
Since 11 players are required to play, trying to survive a season with a roster of 17 means injuries could be the toughest opponent. “We were fortunate in that regard,” remarked Davenport since his team avoided the injury bug. The only major injury was before the season began and it cut the roster from 18 to 17.
However, it wasn’t just in competition that a roster of 17 players proved to be a disadvantage, but mainly in practice. With less than 22 players, you can’t scrimmage among yourselves. Also, you are always short of men to hold up tackling dummies or to add weight to a blocking sled. “It was discouraging,” is the way Davenport described his practices.
Usually the junior varsity had to settle with practicing against the varsity, but Davenport says his squad adjusted against the varsity, which had its pros and cons. But Davenport says his squad adjusted well. The disadvantage was the smaller jayvees had to go against the larger varsity players. But no doubt practicing against the larger players was to Falconer’s advantage when they scrimmaged their jayvee opponents.
Another possible advantage of the small roster is that the players were required to learn how to play many different positions which should help them when seeking a spot on the varsity next fall.
But on the whole, Davenport does not think the unusual season was beneficial. “I think it hurt us,” he says and adds that he wouldn’t want to go through it again. There was a large turnout of ninth graders for the junior high team this year, so it appears he won’t have to face the problem in 1979.
Yet Davenport will always remember 17 players who fought unbelievable odds in 1978 to win a mythical championship. They proved it’s quality, not quantity, that counts.
Members of the team were Ed VanGuilder, Terry Ormond, Mike Warner, Doug Morris, Tom Nord, John Raymond, Dana Overend, Chris Boyd, Jamie Visosky, Joel Graham, Dave Youngberg, Mike Bargar, Chuck Lamb, Curt Fischer, Mike Nelson, Lynn Jose, Bob Pace and Rob Swiderski.